2021 40 Under 40 Honorees: Taylor Stessney and Kacy McGill
“Our role is making sure workers feel supported, making sure they have a voice in the workplace.”
When the coronavirus pandemic shut down the state on March 16, 2020, Kacy McGill and Taylor Stessney overnight set up a Facebook group to provide emergency food and resources to help fellow restaurant workers who had just lost their jobs.
“When the pandemic first happened, it pushed all the issues facing restaurant workers into an extreme,” says McGill, who was working at a Lawrenceville eatery at the time. More than 1,000 people joined the group in the first 24 hours. “We were at such a breaking point.”
Now, 20 months later, their group — Pittsburgh Restaurant Workers Aid — is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, has moved its food pantry and operations into a permanent location in Bloomfield and expanded its services to address mental health, workplace safety, benefits, sexual harassment and management issues. It has raised $61,000 in individual donations through a GoFundMe campaign, received grants and helped 1,500 households with meal programs and care packages.
“Our role is making sure workers feel supported, making sure they have a voice in the workplace,” says Stessney, who was working at a Strip District restaurant at the time of the lockdown.
PRWA will continue providing aid services and advocacy and often works with the local branch of Restaurant Opportunities Centers United, which aims to promote sustainable best practices in restaurants. Stessney currently is digital organizer for the ROC national office.
The two have learned that restaurant workers everywhere face the same issues over low pay, lack of paid sick time and health benefits and other workplace stresses.
“These are all shared concerns,” McGill says. “When we stand together as an industry, we all win.”